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Missouri House chamber renovations on schedule

by Ryan Pivoney | June 23, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
James Rodgers of Concrete Coring and Cutting in Ashland removes a concrete plug from the coring saw Wednesday, June 22, 2022, while cutting holes in the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives floor. Work continues in the chamber where concrete is being cored to allow for flush mounting of electrical and other necessary wiring that goes to representatives' desks. After that work is done and new or additional wiring is run, new wool carpet will be installed. (Julie Smith/News Tribune photo)

As benches, desks and furniture line the Capitol hallways, crews renovating the House chamber are on track to install new carpet and restore member desks before the start of veto session Sept. 14.

The House and Senate chambers are undergoing renovations during the session interim as lawmakers are away. Both chambers are getting new carpets and restored desks, and the House is installing a new voting board.

With the House carpet and desks already removed, crews on Tuesday and Wednesday were boring holes through several layers of concrete that make up the chamber floor.

Dana Rademan Miller, chief clerk and House administrator, said crews discovered channels running below the floor of the House after pulling up the carpet. And below most desks was a 5-inch opening in the floor to run wiring.

About 30 of the 163 desks in the House didn't have holes sufficient to run wiring, Miller said, so crews on Tuesday were widening them to fit a sleeve in and safely run connections.

"What we found is there's probably several layers of flooring that have been added so some of the concrete has a lot of aggregate in it," she said.

Carpet pads will be arriving at the Capitol soon, Miller said, and the carpet itself is scheduled to ship by the first week of August. The carpet, which is the piece Miller said she is most excited to see installed, was designed by the Capitol Commission. It's wool, red and features prominent state symbols such as the dogwood tree and oak leaf.

"It'll compliment the chamber, and so it'll be nice to see," she said.

Miller said the House is on schedule to have the carpet installed and restored desks back in place by the time lawmakers return mid-September for the veto session.

House desks haven't been worked on in 30 years, Miller said, and some have broken drawers, chipping wood and nicked surfaces. All 163 desks, done in groups, will be restored and refinished by a St. Louis company.

Returning lawmakers and visitors will also step into a renovated House Lounge, which is getting a new ceiling color and carpet.

Upon doing a paint analysis, the Capitol Commission learned the ceiling of the House Lounge used to be a deep, dark blue-green color, which Miller said may have been a recommendation from Thomas Hart Benton, the artist who painted the "Social History of Missouri" mural in the lounge.

"So we color matched and had that painted, and it's beautiful," Miller said. "It's amazing how much it complements that mural."

The new carpet going into the House Lounge will have the same pattern as the new carpet getting installed in the House chamber, but is a deep blue-green color to match the ceiling.

Miller said the House Lounge will open after the carpet is installed, which should be around September.

Renovations in the Capitol will continue after the veto session and wrap up before the next legislative session in January.

The House will replace its prominent electronic voting boards and the Senate will install its new carpet after September.

The existing voting boards are 25 years old and, "technologically speaking, they're dinosaurs," Miller said.

The Senate carpet replacement will be a less intensive project because it's a smaller chamber and senators don't have to worry about a connection to a voting board, Miller said. The Senate maintains the tradition of a voice vote, making microphones the major wiring consideration.

Senate Administrator Patrick Baker said the Senate carpet and desks will be removed the Monday after the veto session ends. The chamber benches will also be reupholstered and cushioned, he said, which hasn't happened in 20 years.

Baker said the upholstery work will be done on-site in the Senate chamber.

  photo  Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: At least one person who works in the state Capitol has compared the coring of the concrete of the Missouri House of Representatives floor to an archaeological dig when comparing layers of concrete and the different materials used in the making of the hardened material. The original layer was made with river gravel which is a very hard substance and more difficult to cut. Some areas have a dark gray or black material. Those involved have been trying to figure out the age of the material and when the different layers may have been poured and what changes were made to cause the need for additional concrete.
  photo  Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: At least one person who works in the Capitol has compared the coring of the concrete of the Missouri House of Representatives floor to an archaeological dig when comparing layers of concrete and the different materials used in the making of the hardened material.
  photo  Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: Upon completion of the concrete coring and installation of the wiring housing, which is a metal sleeve through which wires will be fed, a black, hard plastic cap will be placed over it. The purpose is two-fold: one is to keep the wire that is fed up to the desk from being accidentally kicked and knocked loose or broken and the other is for improved appearance and easier movement of the desks if that becomes necessary.

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